A new compact for innovation and economic growth
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Faster, faster, faster—it seems the only constant in our lives is ever more rapid and seemingly disruptive change. Entire industries can vanish in just a few years, supplanted by new technologies or overrun by global competitors, and taking jobs, economic security and hopes and dreams with them. More and more, economic events half a world away have direct and often unanticipated effects that reverberate across Iowa, the Midwest, and the Great Plains. We are in the American heartland, but our economic ties extend around the world.
In this hyperconnected, frenetic world, how do we create and retain high-paying, rewarding jobs for Iowans? How do we ensure the global competitiveness of our local companies, large and small? Most importantly, how do we create an economically attractive future for our children and grandchildren?
Make no mistake; the great American Dream is battered and bruised, but it is not broken. Nor will it be as long as we remember what made that dream a reality for generations of Iowans—a “can do” spirit of innovation and inventiveness. From tractors and combines to hybrid seeds and precision agriculture, Iowa farms were built on both hard work and advanced technology.
Today, our challenges are different, but no less real. Our competitors are global; they are intense and creative; they are highly motivated; and they are coordinated. We can be no less.
We must train our students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), giving them both the training and the ability to be globally competitive and to continually refresh those skills. We must arm our companies with the very latest ideas in advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology and materials science. We must deliver the promise of personalized, genetic medicine to an aging population, while reducing the costs of health care. We must engage our citizens in informed debate on the great social issues facing us, illuminated by the lessons of history, the arts, and the humanities.
My message is simple and direct. The University of Iowa is committed to a new, more robust partnership with the citizens of Iowa, state and local organizations and our sister universities, bringing all of our assets to bear on the challenges ahead. We are reviewing and enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of our economic development processes, from intellectual property management and transfer through entrepreneurship support to applied partnerships with industry.
The world is changing, and so must the people’s university. Whether it is training students in entrepreneurship and best business practices, fostering the growth of new companies based on research breakthroughs, working directly with existing companies to address their real-world problems, or addressing pressing public policy issues, the University of Iowa is committed to a new compact for innovation and economic growth.
It is a rapidly shifting world, and new ideas and approaches are our pathway to a brighter economic future. From Sioux City to Keokuk, from Davenport to Council Bluffs, the University of Iowa will be there as an engaged and committed partner. That is my promise; that is the university’s promise, for all Iowans.
Daniel Reed is vice president for research and economic development and chair of University Computational Science and Bioinformatics at the University of Iowa and a frequent government advisor on science and technology policy. The opinions expressed above are his, not necessarily those of the University of Iowa or the state or federal government. Contact Reed at email@example.com or read his other musings at www.hpcdan.org.